Mystery Of High Disappearance Rate Linked To Country’s First Settlers

February 10, 2015 2:13 PM

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Mystery Of High Disappearance Rate Linked To Country’s First Settlers

The reason for Australia’s disappearing land mammals has long been something of a mystery, but new research suggests much of the decline corresponded with the introduction of European cats and foxes, two species whose populations on the island nation exploded after settlers brought them in the late 18th century, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Over the last 200 years, Australia has lost a greater proportion of its land mammals than any other country in the world.

Since 1788, the year colonization of Australia began, the country has lost about 30 mammals out of 273 endemic species, or about one in 10 native animals, according to the report. Another 21 percent remained threatened and 15 percent were near threatened, researchers found. "We knew it was bad, but ...

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